Last week, the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission officially began taking applications for an opening on the Kansas Supreme Court. The opening was created when Kansas Supreme Court Justice Nancy Moritz retired in order to ascend to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.
The Supreme Court Nominating Commission is a nine-member board responsible for recommending qualified individuals for appointment to the Supreme Court. Four of the members are non-attorneys appointed by the governor and four are attorneys selected by attorneys in each of the state's four congressional districts. The Chair of the Commission is an attorney elected by attorneys in a statewide vote. To clarify, attorneys elected the attorney members and the chair. The Kansas Bar Association does not play a role in this process.
The Commission sends the names of three qualified individuals to the governor for each vacancy. The governor then interviews the candidates and makes the appointment.
This method of filling judicial vacancies has been under attack in Kansas for nearly a decade. Last year the Kansas Legislature altered this process for the Court of Appeals. The legislature opted for a governor appoints/Senate confirm model. Below is a list of proposals introduced during 2013 that would have amended the Kansas Constitution by altering or eliminating the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission. None of these proposals were able to garner the two-thirds majority needed in the Kansas House.
This Supreme Court opening will be an opportune time to discuss the many differences between the process now used for the Court of Appeals and the merit selection process still employed for the Supreme Court. The KBA supports the work done by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission and the process used to find the most-qualified candidate. As this process moves along, the KBA will update its website with candidate information and other related documents.